Saturday, June 27, 2015

Finished

After nine consecutive years of medical training (16 years total of post-secondary training), I finally finished last Thursday.  When asked what I do for a living, I no longer have to hem and haw, awkwardly describing myself as an "almost doctor" or "doctor-in-training" or "resident doctor" or "fellow" (what the heck is a fellow?).  I am simply a doctor.  Full stop.

I am a strange mix of exhausted, burnt out, humbled, ecstatic, terrified, and proud.  I've slept poorly ever since finishing, because I am constantly thinking about this new state of being and what it means to me.  I'm not quite sure.  I don't even fully know what comes next, although there is a preliminary contract sitting unsigned on my desk.

At the very least, I know that I have seven weeks off.  I plan to sleep and eat and laugh and daydream and cram in as many of the things that I have said no to over the past nine years as I possibly can.  I feel so, so lucky to have this space and time for the first time in far too many years. 

Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Screwing Up


There's a resident who is a few years younger than me with whom I've always enjoyed working and whom I would like to get to know outside of work.  Her boyfriend is a huge fan of board games, as am I, so long ago she promised to invite me to her house the next time they hosted a games night.  A few weeks ago the invitation finally came, and I was looking forward to meeting her boyfriend and bringing some tasty snacks.

This morning, I was driving home from dropping the girlfriend off at work, when I saw a sign advertising monthly games nights.  My first thought was "Oooh!  I love games nights!".  My second thought, accompanied by the horrible feeling that I might spontaneously vomit all over the inside of my car, was "OMFG.  Games night was last night."

Yes, after waiting for months, I had managed to completely forget about games night.  It was in my calendar; I had reminded the girlfriend about it earlier in the week; I had even thought about what to bring on Friday night.  But when the day actually arrived, I'd gotten lost in dreading the multiple presentations that I have scheduled for this week and dreaming about my last day of work*, and all thoughts of games night completely slipped my mind.

This, sadly, isn't the first time I've done something like this.  As a teenager, I twice (TWICE) forgot to go to my regularly scheduled after-school babysitting job.  In my working life, I've more than once forgotten to go important meetings, usually involving the boss and a collection of bigwigs.  A year ago, I forgot to attend morning case conference, where I was scheduled to present one of the patients.

Sigh.

It's not that I'm an idiot.  It's not that I don't put these things into my calendar or check my calendar regularly.  It's that I get caught up with something else and completely lose track of where I'm supposed to be.  And I hate it.  After writing a very long apology to the resident, I've spent my day today feeling like a total shit who can't do anything right.

Guess it's time to start setting reminders on my iPhone.

*Thursday.  Exactly 95 hours at the time of writing this (check the counter below the Blog Archive for the most recent update.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

Things I Learned on My Vacation (Most of Which I Already Knew)

Today is my last full day in New Brunswick, and I've snuck away to the sitting room for a few minutes of silence.  In other parts of the house, my almost-90-year-old grandmother is playing classic show tunes on the piano, my aunt is spinning tales while chopping a seemingly endless pile of vegetables, and my Mom is laughing at my aunt while frying 5 pounds of scallops* for Coquilles Saint-Jacques.  While I know that these are the sounds of life and love and family, I do find myself pining for the relative quiet of the one-bedroom apartment that I share with my love (and two asshole felines).

As it's almost the end of my trip, rather than recount the details of my travel that are interesting to no one but myself, I thought I'd share a few observations that I've made in my time away from home.

1)  I hate being away from my girlfriend:  She stayed back at home because of work (and being hesitant to meet all of my family simultaneously at a wedding), and I have missed her every single day.  I miss rolling over to stare at her in the morning, waiting for her to wake up so that I can cuddle with her and tell her my dreams.  I miss coming home to her at night and hearing about her day.  I miss spending way too much time cooking supper with her and then being too lazy to clean up the kitchen afterwards.  I'm clearly smitten.

2)  I am unquestionably an introvert:  My Maritime family is large...and loud.  There is always someone around, and they are usually moving at top speed within a cloud of noise and chaos.  As much as I love them, my introverted self has found it a bit overwhelming, and I've had to hide away from people on a regular basis.  My Mom and I spent three nights alone at my grandmother's cottage, and I could feel myself recharging in the stillness and quiet.

3)  I pack too much stuff when I travel:  I had planned to go more minimalist and pack only my medium-sized suitcase (from a set of three), but my Mom asked me to bring out the largest one so that she could "bring some stuff back with her".  No longer constrained by space, I found myself throwing in all kinds of things I was never going to use - a second dress (getting me into a dress for a wedding is miracle enough), a fourth pair of shoes, multiple pairs of dress pants.  It's ridiculous, especially because we've changed location five times in ten days, and I've had to carry the stupidly heavy suitcase up and down multiple flights of stairs.  In the future, I'm bringing one outfit and washing it in the sink every night.

4)  I need very little to be happy:  My vacation has included lots of exciting things, like trips to Peggy's Cove and Lunenburg, a tour of an artisinal distillery, and many fancy meals out.  My favourite moments though?  Waking up to the sounds of shorebirds outside my bedroom window.  Cuddling with my cousin's adorable one-year-old daughter.  Lying on the couch where my grandfather used to nap every day after lunch.  When traveling in the future, I need to remember that it's the simple things that I most enjoy.

And now the doorbell has rung, bringing another group of relatives into the home.  Time for me to make nice and play the extrovert for a while**. 

*The scallops were supposed to have been taken home with us and eaten over weeks to months, but there was a malfunction of the system to keep them frozen, so instead we're binge-eating scallops.  Life is hard.

**I was going to include photos, but I think my Mom will kill me if I hide away any longer.  A photo post is coming soon!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Dykes at Weddings

I’m currently in the beautiful maritime province of New Brunswick for my cousin’s wedding, which took place last Saturday.  As an unmarried, queer, almost middle-aged woman, it’s inevitable that any wedding will evoke a lot of emotions and self reflection in me.  This one was different for me, however, in that I’m now more than a year into a long-term relationship, and the girlfriend and I have started to dance around the topic of having a wedding of our own.


(A photo of the Same-Sex Marriage "Cake" at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights)

What struck me, as I made the inevitable comparisons between my cousin’s relationship/nuptials and my own, was how much shit my cousin doesn’t have to deal with because she happens to be in an opposite-sex relationship.  For example:
  • When discussing her life with someone she works with or has just met, she doesn’t have to make a split-second decision about whether the person will judge her or consider her to be immoral based on her relationship.
  • When posting photos on Facebook, she doesn’t need to screen photos of her and her partner to make sure that they won’t offend her conservative friends, whom she loves in spite of their ignorance and bigotry.
  • When planning a wedding, she doesn’t have to worry about whether or not she can get married in the church in which she was raised and baptized and which she attends every week.
  • When inviting people to her wedding, she doesn’t have to worry that people will refuse to come because they disagree with her “lifestyle choice”.

By simple virtue of being born straight, my cousin is privileged to avoid the relentless background noise of worry that my girlfriend and I live with because we’re queer.  And we live in one of the best countries in the world to be LGBTQ!  As of July 20 this year, it will have been ten years since our government legalized same-sex marriage.  I can’t fathom what it would be like to live in a country in which it isn’t legal to be married, or worse, where one can still be imprisoned or killed for happening to love someone of the same gender.

Ranting aside…I have to admit that there were also a lot of positive things about my time at my cousin’s wedding.  First, she was married in the United Church, which has an established history of performing same-sex marriages and even ordaining gay and lesbian ministers.  As we entered the church, I noticed that there was a Pride triangle on the door, as well as a sign indicating that the church was a safe space for gays and lesbians.  During the service, the minister replaced the usual statement that “marriage is a union between a man and a woman”* with “marriage is a union between two people”.  These were seemingly small details that none of my relatives noticed, but as someone who has spent most of her life feeling alienated from the church, it meant a lot to me.

Second was my family.  I don’t see this branch of my family very often, as we’re separated by many kilometers that require expensive plane tickets to cross, but they were still incredibly welcoming to me.  Almost every one of them asked why my girlfriend hadn’t come (pesky job), and many of them extended an invitation for the two of us to come and visit together in the near future.  There wasn’t a single moment of awkwardness, except for the time when I was showing family photos on my camera to my grandmother (who doesn’t know about the lesbianism or the girlfriend), and we came to some photos of the girlfriend. 

“Oh!  Who’s that?” she asked.  
*crickets*

Apparently there are still a few awkward discussions about sexuality in my future.

*I think I have my wording wrong here, but my Google search for the correct phrase yielded a list of mainly Christian websites discussing the immorality of same-sex marriage.  Because I like to not be crazy and angry while on vacation, I decided not to follow any of the links.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Not that Anyone is Counting

30 days:
  • 16 days of work (5 on call)
  • 8 days of weekends (2 on call)
  • 6 days of holidays 
And then I'll be a real doctor.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Moments When I Love My Job

It has been an absolutely perfect weekend here, which of course means that I have been on home call and working on a presentation that I have to give on Wednesday.  (Grumble, grumble)  To make sure that I didn't completely miss out on the beautiful weather, I made plans to take a break from work this morning to meet my Mom for breakfast and a walk through the largest park in my city.  Unfortunately, while I was showering in preparation for my outing, my pager went off.

"Hi, this is (Surgery Resident who is surprisingly cheerful despite working at least twice as hard as a Hepatology Fellow).  We just admitted (Very Medically Complicated Liver Patient), who is going for emergency surgery today.  We need you to come see him."

(Grumble, grumble)

After phoning my Mom and telling her to delay our plans, my empty belly and I drove to the hospital, staring glumly out the windows at all of the happy people frolicking in the sunny, 25 C weather.  Arriving at the hospital, I went into my best doctor mode, pretending that there was nowhere in the world that I would rather be on a beautiful day than inside a dimly lit hospital ward that smelled of harsh disinfectant mixed with bodily fluids.

When I walked into the patient's room, prepared to re-introduce myself with my standard line of "You may not remember me, but I'm Doctor Solitary Diner", I was met unexpectedly by the most enthusiastic of greetings.

"Solitary!  So good to see you!"

What followed was part medical interview, part in-depth discussion about our respective plans for an upcoming music festival.  Despite not having seen the patient in a number of months, he remembered that I was planning to attend the same music festival as him, and he was eager to confirm that I'd purchased my advance tickets.  (I'm actually volunteering at the festival, so it's free!)

It seems like such a small thing, but this brief interaction was a major bright spot in an otherwise tiring weekend.  It was so nice to feel like I'm not just another random face in a patient's medical team, but that I'm seen as a real human being with my own interests outside of medicine.  And it was important for me to be reminded that the patients for whom I care are distinct people with lives outside of the hospital, not just a collection of lab reports and physical exam findings.  This is why I do what I do.

Not bad for an early Sunday morning page.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Gifts

My birthday was yesterday, which means that I have recently gone through another round of my annual ritual of telling the people who love me "No, seriously, I don't want you to buy me anything".  As soon as I became an adult, with a job and the ability to buy myself the things I want, I stopped enjoying getting gifts.  The reasons for this are many.  I hate getting things that I don't like and having to pretend that I do.  I hate having more things to store in my apartment, which was already full when my girlfriend (who is a hoarder less of a minimalist than I am) moved in.  I hate knowing that the people I love have spent time, which they usually don't have enough of, in a shopping mall instead of with me.  And I particularly hate that gift giving perpetuates our debt-fueled, environmentally destructive consumer culture.

"Surprise! I love you! Here’s a part of the planet I wrecked for you, Hooray!!"*

A few weeks ago, when my Mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I tried again to tell her that I didn't want any gifts.  Unfortunately, any time I suggest that she not buy me a present, she looks at me as if I have suggested we go out and murder babies.  The gift-giving mentality is very strong with her.  So I tried to suggest a) alternatives to gifts and b) practical gifts that I would actually use.  I suggested that she give me a certain amount of her time, which she could use hanging pictures and putting up blinds and doing other things in my apartment that are outside of my skill set.  I suggested that she make me a nice dinner at her place and we spend a few hours catching up on each others' lives.  I suggested that she get my medical degree framed, so that I can take it out of the cupboard where it's been collecting dust for the past five years and display it in my fancy-pants new office.  None of these things was acceptable to her. 

So what did I get?  A cheque.  My widowed mother, who is on a fixed income, gave money to me, who will soon be earning ridiculous sums of money as a physician**.  How does this make sense?  How is this better than her hanging the pictures from my trip to Cuba that have been taking up space behind my couch since I moved in five years ago?

Gift giving is insane. 

I encountered another example of this insanity when I was talking to my Mom about my cousin's upcoming wedding.  I am spending money that I don't have to fly halfway across the country for the wedding, so I feel like I am justified in being a bit cheap frugal with the gift.  I suggested to my Mom that I was going to get a $50 gift card to the store where my cousin is registered, and she once again looked at me like I was heading out to murder babies.  She thought I should be spending closer to $200 on the gift!  What?  Why should I, who am trying to dig myself out from a giant pit of student debt, be spending ridiculous sums of money on a gift for my cousin (who has a job) and her soon-to-be husband (who also has a job)?  Why is this the expectation?

Rant over.  Thankfully it's another seven months until I have to deal with Christmas.

 *I've been obsessively reading Mr. Money Mustache for the past month or so, and it is transforming my approach to spending and debt.  The article that I linked to is one of my personal favourites and describes my feelings about gift giving much more eloquently than I can.

**Admittedly, I will be using these ridiculous sums of money to pay off my equally ridiculous debt...but that's not the point.